Sunday 12 May 2024

Courage Under Fire Father Willie Doyle, S.J. - Fiorella De Maria - A Vision Book

Courage Under Fire Father Willie Doyle, S.J. 
Priest and Hero of the First World War
Christopher J. Pelicano (Illustrator)
ISBN 9781621646501
eISBN 9781642292817

Courage Under Fire Father Willie Doyle, S.J. - Fiorella De Maria - A Vision Book

This book was a triple hit for me. I am a huge fan of Fiorella’s works, I love the Vision Books for Young Readers, and I have a personal devotion to Father Willie Doyle. This was the eighteenth book by Fiorella de Maria that I have read. I stumbled upon her works a few years ago and I read nine of them in as many weeks. And now eagerly await each new offering from her masterful pen. I was eagerly anticipating this book, since she mentioned it on social media. I have tracked down and read everything by her under the name Fiorella de Maria. And this is the third volume she has written for the New Vision Books Series from Ignatius. It is her fourth Catholic biography.

The description of this book states:

“This historical novel for young people is about the heroic life of Father Willie Doyle, S.J., an Irish Jesuit priest who sacrificed his life serving wounded soldiers in World War I.

Father Doyle enjoyed a happy, privileged Victorian childhood in Ireland. Growing up in a loving, faithful Catholic family, he heard the call to serve God as a priest from a very young age. Shortly after his ordination, the First World War broke out, and Father Willie volunteered to serve as a chaplain to the thousands of Irish soldiers fighting in France.

This joyful, holy, brave, and compassionate priest left the country he loved and ministered to soldiers in the hell of the trenches, dodging bullets and bombs to ensure that dying soldiers could receive the sacraments. By the time he was killed trying to help a wounded soldier, Father Willie had become greatly loved and esteemed by both Catholics and Protestants fighting in the war.

The cause for the canonization of Father Willie Doyle has recently been opened in Rome.”

I have read a few other volumes about Father Willie Doyle, and have been following his cause of Canonization. Because I was so familiar with the story I did not highlight as much in my first reading of this book, as I normally might have. Some of them are:

“Willie had always placed himself in the hands of Jesus and Our Lady, and he did so again, knowing that God would find a way. Sure enough, Willie fully recovered and returned to Tullabeg. The priesthood beckoned!”

“Willie knew that he had a stubborn streak and a hot temper, however well he managed to keep it under control. During his years as a student, he frequently had to fight the temptation to get into arguments with his superiors and did not always succeed in holding his peace.”

“After a long retreat in 1907, shortly before his ordination, Willie compiled a list—a kind of saint-in-the-making to-do list—to keep himself focused on the task at hand. I have asked to be sent to the Congo. If I am sent there, I will have only a short time to live. Is my life that of a missionary and perhaps future martyr? Be humble! Be devoted to the Sacred Heart in the Blessed Eucharist. Say my Office in the chapel. Say one thousand little prayers a day, never less than five hundred. Make thirty little mortifications a day, never less than fifteen. Achieve close union with and intense love of God. Therefore, I will stay away from sin; never break rules and regulations; do everything for the love of Jesus, carefully, fervently, devotedly; pray always to love more. Try to bear little sufferings. Never go to sleep during the day. Always be modest. Read these rules once a week.”

“As he knelt before the bishop, Willie held out his hands, and the bishop traced the holy oils over his palms. I am not worthy of this privilege, thought Willie as the bishop prayed the words of ordination. He was not worthy, but he knew that God would not reject the gift he was giving of his own life through the priesthood. Just before traveling to the church, Willie had written: My loving Jesus, on this the morning of my ordination to the priesthood, I wish to place in your Sacred Heart, in gratitude for all you have done for me, the resolution from this day forward to go straight for holiness. My earnest wish and firm resolve is to strive with might and main to become a saint. Mr. Doyle was now Father Doyle, S.J. He was a priest in the service of God, and he was going to serve God with every fiber of his being.”

“Willie was sent to lead retreats all over Ireland and England, including for the workers at the Guinness factory in Dublin, at the owner’s request. In five years, he preached 140 retreats. Willie spoke to all kinds of congregations—priests, nuns, schoolchildren—but he would always feel most drawn to the working men and women the rest of society relied upon but chose to ignore. Making a retreat was still seen as a luxury for the middle classes; but Willie had seen working men’s retreats in other Catholic countries, such as Belgium, and he was determined that Ireland should develop its own mission to reach out to poor and suffering families around the country.”

““Was he raised Catholic?” asked Willie seriously. “It would be useful to know.” “No one knows what the old devil was raised.” “Probably Catholic,” said Willie sadly. “All the greatest haters of the Catholic faith are lapsed Catholics. He’s most likely a baptized Catholic then.””

This story is masterfully written. I could hardly put the book down. Even being familiar with Father Doyle’s story I was enthralled with this biography; the story of helping an old lady in a seedy part of town, the cricket incident, making a cloister of his dorm room, … there were so many stories about his youth that kids will laugh at and enjoy greatly. Even the incident after his punishment for not having his gear. I think Father Willie would love that we laugh with him, and as he often did even at him. 

The prologue in this book moved me almost to tears. De Maria had me from the get go. This book and series is aimed for younger readers, but they are so well written they can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. My two youngest both teenagers enjoy them, I am in my fifties and I love them, those Ignatius brought back in print, the new expansions from them of the series, and the originals I can lay my hands on that Ignatius has not licensed. This is an excellent book in a wonderful series. They would be great additions to any home, school, or church library. An excellent book I can easily recommend!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2024 Catholic Reading Plan!   

Books in the Vision Books Saints Biographies:
Bernadette, Our Lady's Little Servant 
The Cure of Ars 
Edmund Campion 
Florence Nightingale's Nuns 
Fr. Marquette and the Great Rivers 
Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi 
Kateri Tekakwitha 
Mother Cabrini, Missionary to the World 
Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity 
Saint Anthony and the Christ Child 
Saint Benedict 
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal 
Saint Dominic and the Rosary 
Saint Elizabeth's Three Crowns 
Saint Francis of the Seven Seas 
Saint Helena and the True Cross 
Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus 
Saint Isaac and the Indians 
Saint John Bosco 
Saint Katherine Drexel 
Saint Louis and the Last Crusade 
Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart 
Saint Therese and the Roses 
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars 
Saint Thomas More of London 
Vincent De Paul: Saint of Charity 

Out of Print books in the Series:
Brother Andre of Montreal 
Catholic Campuses, Stories of American Catholic Colleges 
Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Children Welcome: Villages for Boys and Girls 
Christmas and the Saints 
Columbus and the New World 
Dear Philippine: Mission of Mother Duchesne 
Edel Quinn: Beneath the Southern Cross 
Father Kino, Priest to the Pimas 
Frances Warde and the First Sisters of Mercy 
Good Pope John b
Governor Al Smith 
In American Vineyards, Religious Orders in the United States 
Irish Saints 
John Carroll Bishop and Patriot
John Neumann, The Children's Bishop 
Kit Carson of the Old West 
Lydia Longley, the First American Nun 
Marguerite Bourgeoys, Pioneer Teacher 
Martin de Porres, Saint of the New World 
Modern Crusaders 
More Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Mother Barat's Vineyard 
My Eskimos: A Priest in the Artic 
Peter and Paul: The Rock and the Sword 
Peter Claver, Saint Among Slaves
Pope Pius XII, the World's Shepherd 
Rose Hawthorne: The Pilgramage of Nathaniel's Daughter 
Saints of the Byzantine World 
Sarah Peter: The Dream and the Harvest 
St. Augustine and His Search for Faith 
St. Francis de Sales 
St. Gregory the Great, Consul of God 
St. Jerome and the Bible 
St. Margaret Mary, Apostle of the Sacred Heart 
The Bible Story, The Promised Lord and His Coming 
The Cross in the West 
The Ursulines, Nuns of Adventure 
When Saints Were Young 

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